It is a very quiet morning here in Moab, Utah. Outside a gentle rain is falling, the first we have seen in a few weeks. All month the weather in our part of the world has been mild, with sunny days and cool nights. I’ve built a few fires in the woodstove, just to take the chill off in the morning, but our days have been glorious and peaceful.
If only we could share this peace with the rest of the world. As we all know, America is at war. Just 23 years after the armistice that ended the Great War in Europe, “civilization” is exploding, to the four corners of the Earth. Tonya and I were visiting friends, just two weeks ago yesterday, when word came of the attack on Pearl Harbor. We could scarcely believe our ears when we heard John Daley on the Columbia radio network announce the naval and air attacks.
Our first thoughts were of young Tony Meador, a Moab native who we know is stationed somewhere in the Hawaiian Islands with the U.S. Navy. We immediately contacted Mrs. Meador and, as any of us would be, she is sick with worry. She told us he was a gunner and attached to the Navy destroyer, the U.S.S Helm. We have all anxiously awaited word of his whereabouts and pray for his safety.
The next day, we were able to pick up the radio broadcast of President Roosevelt’s address to the Congress. I have to say, it was the most chilling and powerful speech I have ever heard. He began, “Yesterday, December 7, 1941— a date which will live in infamy— the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan.” I could feel the hairs stand on the back of my neck. It was like nothing I have experienced before.
At the end of his remarks the President declared, “No matter how long it may take us to overcome this premeditated invasion, the American people in their righteous might will win through to absolute victory.” And then, “With confidence in our armed forces – with the unbounding determination of our people – we will gain the inevitable triumph – so help us God.”
* * *
It’s difficult to believe so much has changed so quickly. Our red cliffs shine in the morning sun as brilliantly as they did two weeks ago. The stars at night are still a sight to behold. All our routines seemed so comforting and safe. For example, as they have done for years, twice last month, the Scorup Somerville Cattle Company ran their herds through Moab, headed north to the rail depot at Thompsons. They say there were more than a thousand head each time so you can imagine the dust cloud it kicked up. The boys in town all had a great time watching the drive. But I look at those ‘boys,’ some of them 14 or 15 years old, and I wonder how many of them, just children right now, will be pulled into this awful, and yet necessary war.How many will come home?
Things are changing rapidly, even here in Moab, as we prepare to do our part. We saw Bish Taylor, the other day, the Times publisher, and thanked him for his rousing message after the events of December 7. I thought they were so inspiring that I wrote them down:
Our Nation is at War
The United States is at war. This peace loving nation which has ever shunned imperialism has been attacked without warning by [a country] that has dreams of dominating and controlling more than half of the face of the globe.
Our nation apparently already has suffered heavy losses. Our people are face to face with the knowledge that we must wage a long burdensome struggle to maintain our free American way of life and the right to conduct friendly commerce with all parts of the world.
This nation will meet the challenge. No matter what sacrifices are involved, the United States of America will win this battle of the Pacific just as it will help to rid both hemispheres of the curse of dictatorship.
Our people are now united in a common resolve to make Japan rue the day it attempted to match forces with this great republic. No matter what the cast, no matter how long it will take, this nation will emerge victorious.
We of Southeastern Utah will put forth every effort to help our country in this grim struggle. Through the purchase of government bonds, through aid to the Red Cross and other welfare organizations, this section of the country will not be found lacking. Scores of our young men are already in the armed forces–others will enlist from time to time as their services are needed. Southeastern Utah is all out to win this war–just as all other parts of the nation are.
We’d already been hearing the names of local boys who had enlisted, even before Pearl Harbor, but now we’ve learned that more than 250 young men from Grand County have signed up. Soon our male population will consist solely of the boys and us older men, who aren’t allowed to fight (even if we want to!).
“Before this morning the fellows around here including myself seemed to take this army hitch as a matter of course, but this morning at about 11 o’clock while we were listening to the radio and the announcement came that the Hawaiian islands had been attacked, the atmosphere around here changed completely. The boys really realize now what this is all about. I haven’t heard one fellow, out of close to 25,000 here in Roberts, who isn’t willing to go and do his share. If the civilian people could hear the ready and willing note in the soldier talk, they should have nothing to fear or worry about.
“Personally I could never imagine until now what the feeling would be among a big group of soldiers if war was declared on either side. But I’ve seen the reaction this morning when we heard the news and it’s one I will never forget.”
For those of us back home in this remote corner of the country, it makes us all feel a bit frustrated that we can’t do more. Of course, we do what we can. We can soon expect and willingly accept the rationing of many commodities that will be necessary for the war effort. Fund drives to support the Red Cross are underway and we are all digging deep to buy War Bonds for the expensive months and years to come as we fight the Nazis and the Empire of Japan.
* * *
Still when he saw me, he stopped and introduced himself, though it was difficult to understand his very thick foreign accent. Later learned his dialect stemmed from Bulgarian roots. The man’s name, as best I could gather, was “Aaron” or something like that. He had a donkey with him and I believe he was camped somewhere near the river. Aaron seemed like a very gentle man, but I could never understand how or why he had come to Moab.
Over the next few months, I saw Aaron around town and sometimes I’d see him up on the sandstone talus slope above the highway. It appeared he was quite busy working on some kind of project, but I had no idea what he was doing until local photographer Harry Reed led me to the site to take a look.
I was stunned to find a most magnificent bas relief sculpture, carved by Aaron into the side of a massive flat-sided boulder. It depicted a profile portrait that bore a striking resemblance to Napoleon. It was absolutely brilliant. Beside the portrait, Aaron had identified the carved character. He called it:
This sweet, albeit strange, man who had, for reasons unknown, carved this magnificent sculpture posed no threat to anyone; yet weeks later, I heard that some of my fellow citizens regarded him a nuisance. He was taken away–some say to the state mental hospital in Provo. I have no idea whatever became of him.
Now. we face a real threat from powerful and evil men who truly want to be the ‘Kings of America and The World.” Perhaps we should have paid more attention to our strange visitor from 1935. Perhaps he was deemed ‘crazy’ because he could see more than the rest of us. Maybe Aaron was trying to warn us of Things to Come. And maybe, if he knew this was the future we all faced, we can forgive him for his erratic behavior. Who wouldn’t be?
Until the next time…
Your faithful Moab Reporter,